Today, Representative Bob Cortes announced the successful results of the partnership he initiated between the Florida and Puerto Rico Departments of Education following Hurricane Maria last fall. Cortes recognized the education challenges displaced students relocating to Florida faced and was an early leader in working to ensure a smooth transition to Florida schools. As a result of his efforts, a high percentage of high school seniors who relocated graduated on time, with some opting to receive a Puerto Rico diploma. Cortes, a Puerto Rican American, worked closely with Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher to make this option available.

“Hurricane Maria was a catastrophe that displaced so many families, and we wanted to make sure Florida did everything we possibly could to help,” said Cortes. “If we had not taken proactive steps to help students, especially high school seniors, many would not have graduated. I’m so proud of how folks came together to make this happen for these young people who have been through so much.”

In Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties, 209 out of 237 Puerto Rico 12th graders enrolled graduated, and 22 out of 32 students from the Virgin Islands who enrolled in Florida schools graduated. Those who did not graduate in one of these counties either relocated to another school district returned to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, or are continuing to complete requirements for their diploma or certificate this summer. Because of a Memorandum of Understanding between the FLDOE and PRDOE, displaced students enrolled in a Florida school had the choice of receiving a Puerto Rico or Florida diploma.

Cortes also championed in-state tuition for students who relocated to Florida following the devastating storm.

“Puerto Ricans are our fellow American citizens,” said Cortes. “I believe it’s our duty and responsibility to extend a helping hand, and because of our efforts, I’m glad to say that these young people are able to take advantage of educational opportunities to help start their lives on the right path.”

The attached chart provides details on the graduation rates for Puerto Rican and Virgin Island students in Florida following Hurricane Maria.